Kunming is known as the "Spring City" with temperate weather all year. round. As such, snowfall is a once-in-a-decade surprise.
But yesterday, as I battled to work on my e-bike, Jiajia and JD were out enjoying the white stuff - snowball fights and a snowman.
JD hasn't really seen snow in Kunming before and I haven't seen this much in all my 15 years here. It's due to start disappearing today, although the unusually cold temperatures (-2ºC) will be here for a few more days yet.
JiaJia and I challenged JD to an Art Competition last week (to get him off the iPad for an hour or two!). We decided to all draw the same thing (JD chose one of his aeroplane toys) with the best sketch winning a prize [L to R below: Jiajia's, JD's, mine]. Who won, do you think?
JD's schoolteacher is fully aware that Jiajia has a Masters in Art and JD's English is fluent, so she often sends us details of Art/English Competitions for us to enter "for the glory of the school". The painting below was a JJ/JD joint effort for Teacher's Day!
Yesterday, we went with friends to an island town on TangLangChuan (literally "Praying Mantis River") in the countryside, about an hour's drive away. We had home-cooked banquets with friends of our friends and took a pleasant afternoon walk down the riverside to the enormous DianChi Lake. Then, on to a farm where we pulled up fresh vegetables for the evening meal and annoyed a huge goose.
JD's favourite activity was fishing in the river with his new net. He managed to catch three little minnows. For me, it was nice to spend a little quiet time with the wife, with mobile phones turned off!
It's the last day of JD's week off, and so when some of JD's schoolmates invited him to join them in visiting to Kunming's biggest funfair, we could hardly reuse. I'm doing IELTS examining at the moment, so it fell to Jiajia to join the other parents on the trip.
JD is fearless when it comes to big wheels, rollercoasters, high swings, whizzing roundabouts etc. So he had a blast. They also took in a couple of shows, before sharing a big meal on the way home.
We're in our 4th week of self-quarantine. We venture out into our neighbourhood occasionally to pick up food deliveries or do some exercise, but otherwise we are stuck at home waiting for the worst of COVID-19 to be over. Our Province of Yunnan is one of the least affected places in China, but that doesn't stop my good wife worrying about every possible "one in a million" chance of us catching anything! And to be fair, the advice from police, local government, hospitals and my University is also a pretty strict <STAY AT HOME>. So here we are for now, slowly going crazy!
[P.S. Our school entered the above (Jiajia /JD) painting
in a Provincial Competition and, to our surprise, it won!]
Before heading back to Kunming we spent a leisurely morning looking around ShiLin's Old Town (razed by bulldozers) and looking out for interesting places, such as the shop above selling hand-made funerary wares - a rare sight in a country where everything seems factory-produced these days. Then in the wet market, we saw these two diminutive "Hani minority" women selling various foods form their village. We bought some free range eggs (only to be told moments later by another nearby vendor that the eggs are the same "battery hen eggs" as everyone else's! Seems you pay a premium for the photo!
ON the way back to Kunming, we visited PanSiWan cemetery where Jiajia's Gran is buried. It was JD's first visit to a cemetery - cue a whole raft of deep questions on the remaining journey home!
Jiajia. JD and I went to an amazing theme park the other day, along with two other families from JD’s school. The attraction has an "Ocean Park" (large aquarium, plus dolphin, seal and beluga whale shows), a "Snow Park" (huge indoor -8ºC building with slides, aerial walkways, train, skating, skiing, "live snowing", igloos etc), fairground rides and a circus! And all this just a few hour's drive outside of Kunming!
We celebrated our Christmas this last weekend as we are all working on the actual day. JD woke at 6am to see what Santa had bought him [see above] and then we played with various toys throughout the day, opening all our presents after lunch. JD seemed more interested in making a junk plane from the boxes which the present came in at one point [bottom, left]. Then JiaJia managed a delicious roast dinner [bottom, right] in the evening to round off a very enjoyable day.
Merry Christmas to all my blog readers!!
Today, JD was added to JiaJia's registration papers to make him a full-registered Chinese citizen! He now has a "Hukou" which will allow him to get an ID card, access state schools and be insured. Most kids born in China do this within a few weeks being born, but JD's British passport complicated things and we delayed it. You see if you have a British passport, you can't get a British visa in your Chinese passport. And you can't leave China on your British passport because China doesn't recognise dual nationality (and being born in China makes JD Chinese as far as China is concerned). It was only in the last couple of months that these rules were relaxed, allowing JD to leave China on a temporary Permit regardless of him being fully registered. Confused? You're not the only one.
Apparently I'm an Uncle again, and JiaJia is an Aunt for the first time (by blood) ...not that she appears particularly bothered. We heard today that Jiajia's brother and his Laos wife had a baby boy a couple of weeks ago. They had told Ma-in-law, but not the rest of us. Ma showed us a couple of photos today. No name yet, but we believe mother and baby are doing well.
One of the few disappointments of our time in the UK was getting notice of a traffic fine in the final week of our car hire. I still have no idea of what it was for, as I thought I'd been very careful to keep below speed limits and park correctly. As yet, no paperwork has come through to our UK address, but I fear it's only a matter of time.
Then today, my Chinese driving license also got blemished. JiaJia received a parking fine yesterday dating back to June and persuaded me to take the points, as my license is (was) clean while hers is, let's say, cluttered! She also needs the car more than me. Our trip to the traffic police office today did at least provide some amusing Chinglish.
We are back in China and the unpacking is pretty well finished. As you might expect, it is a little hard to adjust back to life in a different country and culture after six weeks in the UK. The hawking and spitting noises in Kunming Airport's toilets quickly brought it all back though!
JD has been seemingly unaffected by the switch, just enjoying seeing his old toys again and sleeping in his own bed. He also showed no signs of jet lag. I woke at 4am one morning but otherwise have been alright. JiaJia though has had a few days of going to sleep at 5am and finally waking at midday. She's never the best sleeper, but this time it's taking her longer to adjust to China time. She is already back at work. I have a further week's holiday, while JD has two weeks vacation left.
We're continuing to enjoy our time in Hereford. It's a lovely city with parks and a river within walking distance of my brother's house. Esme has taken JD swimming in the river, despite the weather becoming little cooler than of late. Hereford cathedral is also eye-catching and Jiajia loves exploring the local charity shops. Josh is a life-guard at a nearby swimming pool, so JD and I had a fun swim at the pool, which has a wave machine and water chute tubes.
A terrific day in the capital today, starting at the London Eye and wandering down the Thames. As planes flew in formation overhead to celebrate 100 years of the RAF, JD was more interested in popping huge bubbles blown by a street artist while JiaJia was busy taking in a Picasso exhibit at the Tate Modern.
Later we explored the HMS Belfast before heading for my Aunt's house for a meal and sleep-over. Open-topped bus and river cruise tomorrow.
Jiajia is a huge fan of UK Charity shops, but found today's Car Boot Sale - her first - even more enticing. Items were even cheaper there, and the sellers were willing to bargain. We wandered around for over an hour and bought all sorts of "unnecessary" items to take back to China. We got a few bargains too - a couple of Chinese plates worth a few hundred pounds for £3 and a new Monopoly set for £2.
JD, Jiajia and I went to the Kunming UK Visa Processing Office yesterday to hand in the various documents required to apply for Jiajia's UK visa. There seems to be less requirements this time, but the online application beforehand still takes about 3 hours to complete, and I had to do it twice this time after we suddenly realised that applying for a 5-year visa wasn't going to work when Jiajia's passport only had 2 years to run. However, last time we applied we had to fly to the UK Consulate in Chongqing and stay a night in a hotel. At least this time there is a processing centre in Kunming. The 2-year visa still costs some £350 though. Not cheap. And, as ever, there is no guarantee we will get the full two years or, indeed, any visa at all. The website asks for various documents, while the processing centre mentions others and whoever you ask comes back with the set phase "We are not able to advise you on what to supply - it's up to you." Hmmm ...so helpful!
Jiajia's birthday celebrations this year were largely hijacked by JD, who wanted to wear the crown, open the cards and presents, blow out the candles etc.
Jiajia has been gradually getting used to celebrating birthdays. She never really had her birthday acknowledged as a child. She recalls once when her Mum went out to buy her a birthday cake. But, after inviting her school friends round to share it, her Mum returned and said it was too expensive and she should just send her friends home. Ma seems to be trying to make up for it, to some extent, these days. She bought the cake this year and also gave Jiajia some birthday money - more than all previous birthday presents combined! Thankfully my wife is a much, much better Mum.
Past blog entries